Frequently Asked Questions About Pelvic Organ Prolapse
Q. What is pelvic organ prolapse?
A. Pelvic prolapse is the third most common pelvic floor disorder. A prolapse occurs when the pelvic muscles and other supporting tissues becomes weak, which causes the organs in the pelvis to fall out of place. There are several types of pelvic organ prolapse:
- Cystocele occurs when the upper wall of the vagina loses support and the bladder drops out of position and into the vagina
- Rectocele occurs when the lower wall of the vagina loses support and the rectum bulges upward into the vagina
- Enterocele occurs when the small intestines bulge into the vagina
- Uterine prolapse occurs when the uterus falls into the vagina
While these conditions are usually not associated with serious health risks, they can cause symptoms such as:
- A heavy feeling or discomfort from something that feels like it is “falling out” of the vagina
- A pulling or “bulge” in the lower abdomen or pelvis
- Frequent urinary infections, caused by a reduced ability to release urine from the urethra
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- Kegel exercises and other pelvic floor exercises that can help strengthen the muscles that support the pelvic organs
- A pessary, which is a ring-like device that a physician or nurse inserts into the vagina to help support the organs in the pelvis
To repair pelvic organ prolapse, surgery may be the best option for some women. Often, these procedures can be done using minimally invasive techniques. At the University of Chicago Center for Pelvic Health, surgeons regularly use robotic technology that allows them to see inside the pelvis and perform very delicate procedures. Many procedures also can be performed through small incisions in the vagina, which reduces scarring and complications, and speeds recovery time.
For example, laparoscopic pelvic floor repair, also known as laparoscopic colposuspension, is a minimally invasive surgery that allows surgeons to rebuild the pelvic floor. During the procedure, surgeons insert a thin tube called a laparoscope through a small incision in the abdomen. Through other small incisions in the abdomen, surgeons can stitch organs back into their normal positions.
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